Iain West

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Iain West (born 25 April 1944, death 23 July 2001 Hastings, East Sussex[1]) was a British forensic pathologist. He was involved in examining numerous deaths, many which are described in the book Dr Iain West's Casebook he published in collaboration with journalist Chester Stern.[2] From 1984 to 1998 he was head of the Department of Forensic Medicine at Guy's Hospital.

Iain West's second wife was Vesna Djurovic, also a noted pathologist.

Among the deaths Iain West investigated were that of Robert Maxwell. Maxwell had fallen, jumped or been pushed overboard his yacht Lady Ghislaine 5 November 1991. Iain West was commissioned by the insurance company to examine whether the death was accidental, a suicide or homicide. 20 million Pounds were to be paid if the death was any other than accident of homicide.[3] West was of the opinion that suicide was slightly more likely than the accident.

Iain West also carried out the post-mortem examinations of the BBC TV presenter Jill Dando[4] and the British police officer Yvonne Fletcher who was shot from the Libyan embassy in 1984.[5] West also played a part in the release of the British soldier Lee Clegg who had been convicted for murder.[6]

The most high profile international case with which Iain West was involved was the investigation into the death of Kenya’s Foreign Minister Dr Robert Ouko, in February 1990.


The partially burnt body of Dr Robert Ouko, Kenya’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, was officially found at the foot of Got Alila Hill, 2.8 km from his farm at Koru, near Kisumu, north western Kenya, on 16 February 1990, following a police search.[7] He had gone missing in the early hours of the morning three days before (13 February).

On 19 February the Kenyan government announced that three detectives from Scotland Yard, Detective Superintendent John Troon together with Detective Inspector Graham Dennis and Detective Sergeant David Sanderson from ‘the Yard’s’ International and Organised Crime Branch, would take over the investigation. They were accompanied by Dr Iain West, then a Forensic Pathologist from Guys and St Thomas Hospitals, London. The Scotland Yard team arrived in Kenya on 21 February.


On the same day that they arrived in Nairobi, Dr Iain West, accompanied by Superintendent John Troon, carried out a second post mortem at the Lee Mortuary.

A post mortem had already been conducted on 17 February by the Kenyan State Pathologist, Dr. J. N. Kaviti and photographs of Dr Ouko’s body and the surrounding area had been taken at the scene.

Dr. Kaviti noted that Dr Ouko had been shot in the head with an entry wound 8 cm above the right ear, exiting 6 cm above the left ear and that the minister’s right tibia and fibula were broken at the ankle.[8]

Dr West concluded, as had Dr Kaviti, that the cause of death was ‘a firearm wound to the head which occurred in life’ but he noted that there was no contact wound. West went further in his analysis and conclusions than Kaviti had done, however.[9]

Dr West stated that Ouko’s body had been burnt by a slow but intense fire after he had been killed and once the body was laid down and that the broken ankle was caused while Dr Ouko was still alive probably by a heavy fall or blow, not by the heat of the fire. West also found bruising on Dr Ouko’s right upper arm which was ‘consistent with a blow at the time of death or shortly before.’

West deduced that the bullet wound was also not in a position that would have been usual if death had been the result of suicide and that the damage to Dr Ouko’s skull was more severe than would be expected if it had been caused by standard .38 special round (Dr Ouko’s gun).

The shot to Dr Ouko’s head would have led to an immediate loss of consciousness and all muscular activity, and resulted in severe blood loss but West noted that the blood flow across his face (as witnessed by photographs taken at the scene) suggested that head had been moved after the fatal injury had occurred and within six hours of death.

Dr West concluded that the injuries suffered by Dr Ouko were not consistent with suicide but rather he had been shot by someone else after breaking his right leg and the body had subsequently been set on fire, and that Dr Ouko’s ‘death should be investigated as one of homicide’.[10]


On 22 February, Dr West and Troon visited the site where Dr Ouko’s body had been found. Their search revealed ‘a bullet mark that had removed a small portion of branch from a bush 7 feet north of the body’. [Despite a search supervised by Detective Sergeant David Sanderson and weeks of searching by Kenyan police officers however, the bullet was never found.]

Dr West, working with a Detective Sergeant David Sanderson, deduced that if the bullet mark had been caused by the fatal shot to Dr Ouko’s head then its trajectory would indicate that he had been shot when standing up.[11] Alternatively, if Dr Ouko had been shot whilst he was seated in the position where his head was found then the bullet could have hit the branch nearby but if he had been seated in the same position as where his body was found then the branch would not have been hit. For Dr West this evidence suggested that Dr Ouko’s body had been moved after death.[12]


Together with the evidence of the blood flow on Dr Ouko’s face Troon concluded on the basis of Dr West’s findings that if the bullet mark on the branch had resulted from the fatal shot then the body had been moved by ‘at least two or three feet and within six hours of death’ but that there was ‘no evidence to suggest that Dr Ouko had died at any other venue than the scene’.[13] The injury to his arm and leg however, could have occurred elsewhere.

Dr West’s forensic analysis, the post mortem examinations, analysis of photographs taken of the body at the scene and the examination of the scene itself, particularly in regarding the blood flow on the deceased’s face and the nature of the evidence that a shot had been fired at the place where the body was found, led to an inescapable and critical conclusion: Dr Robert Ouko had been shot at, or within a few feet, of where his body was found at Got Alila Hill.

Dr West repeated these findings at the trial of Jonah Anguka, to date the only person to have been charged with the murder of Dr Robert Ouko.

West’s evidence is recorded in the trial judge’s judgement. He stated that, "though there was no sign of dragging of the body and that the act of dumping the body at the scene where it was later found was neat and professional, the dry blood observed from the upper lip to the lower eyelid horizontally indicated that the deceased body was moved after being short but before it (the blood) clotted and before being set on fire".[14] In other words, Ouko's body was moved shortly after he was shot dead and placed in position and set on fire before the blood dried. Dr Iain West proved that Dr Robert Ouko was killed where he his body was found (Got Alila Hll), or very near to that spot.

Over 21 years since the murder of Dr Robert Ouko his killers have still not been convicted.


In 2000, Nicholas Biwott, a former minister in the Kenyan government who had been one of the people named by Detective Superintendent John Troon in his ‘Final Report’ for further investigation over the Ouko murder, sued Chester Stern, a British journalist and author of Dr Iain West’s Casebook which ‘purported to be a true account of Dr West’s official work investigating the Ouko murder, in which he alleged Mr Biwott’s involvement in the murder’. Biwott also sued the book’s publishers and two bookshops in Nairobi (for distributing it). The Kenyan defendants settled out of court, those in the UK did not respond to a summons.

Judge Alnashir Visram found in favour of Nicholas Biwott, awarding Sh30 million in ‘compensatory and exemplary’ libel damages, the highest ever awarded in a Kenyan court.[15]

Judge Visram set out his arguments for the damages awarded. He stated that, ‘The libels perpetrated upon the plaintiff[Biwott] are grave, quite deliberate, and without regard to their truth, or recklessly without caring about their truth, for the sole purpose of gain notwithstanding the distress it might cause to the plaintiff. And this is what gives rise to “exemplary” damages’.

He concluded: ‘I believe that time is propitious to send a clear message to all those who libel others with impunity, and who get away with ridiculously small awards, that the Courts of law will no longer condone their mischief. No person should be allowed to sell another person’s reputation for profit where such a person has calculated that his profit in so doing will greatly outweigh the damages at risk’.[16]


  1. ^ Bill Hunt (2001-07-28). "Iain West". independent.co.uk. 
  2. ^ Chester Stern (1996). Dr Iain West's Casebook: The Chilling Investigations of Britain's Leading Forensic Pathologist. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0-316-87788-3. 
  3. ^ Stern, p. 17
  4. ^ "Iain West: A witness to tragedy". BBC News. BBC. 1999-10-09. 
  5. ^ Stern, p. 37+
  6. ^ Stern, pages 352+
  7. ^ "Kenya Police: Further Investigations 4:1 p14-15". 
  8. ^ "Troons Final Report Paragraph 49". 
  9. ^ "Troons Final Report Paragraph 51". 
  10. ^ "Troons Final report Paragraph 52 (3 pages)". 
  11. ^ "Troons Interim Report Paragraph 56". 
  12. ^ "Troons Final Report paragraph 290 (2 pages)". 
  13. ^ "Troons Final Report Para 290 (2 pages)". 
  14. ^ "Judgement in the criminal case of Republic versus Jona Orao Anguka page 24]". 
  15. ^ "Judge Visram's Judgement on Libel case". High Court of Kenya at Nairobi Civil Case No. 1067 of 1999. 
  16. ^ "Republic of Kenya in the High Court of Kenya at Nairobi Civil Case No 1067 of 1999". 2000-12-20: 27 & 28. 


  1. Allen Anscombe (17 August 2001). "Iain West. His brilliant forensic skills unravelled IRA and Libyan plots". The Guardian.